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Top 10 Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner With Paper Plates f...
Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr

Top 10 Tips for a Safe Thanksgiving Dinner

The California Poison Control System requested that I share these tips with you and said-, “please don’t pass the salmonella.”

In its latest year of surveillance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented 1,097 reported outbreaks resulting in 21,244 cases of food-borne illness and 18 deaths.

“Food poisoning is highly preventable,” said Dr. Richard Geller, executive medical director of California Poison Control System .“By following simple storage, handling and cooking suggestions, families can stay healthy and enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, as well as the many other celebrations taking place this time of year”.

Food poisoning can cause fever, stomach pain, vomiting and/or diarrhea and dehydration.  The illness usually appears within six to 48 hours after eating or drinking contaminated food or beverage.  For the elderly, children, infants, pregnant woman and people suffering from compromised immune systems, food poisoning can be severe.  California Poison Control System (CPCS) offers the top 10 tips for enjoying a safe Thanksgiving:

1.    Wash your hands often, especially in between handling foods that are dry and wet.
2.    Before preparing food, carefully clean counters, cutting boards and utensils with hot soapy water.  Repeat cleaning in between recipes, especially if you have raw meat or leafy greens on the cutting board, both of which can carry salmonella.
3.    Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water and use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
4.    If you purchased a turkey fresh and not frozen, refrigerate it immediately.  For a frozen turkey, allow lots of time for it to thaw…24 hours of thaw time per five pounds of turkey.  Thaw a turkey a high walled pan placed in the refrigerator, and do not let the water touch any other food.
5.    It is safest not to stuff a turkey, but rather put herbs inside the cavity to season it.  If you must stuff, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of the stuffing which must reach 165° F.  Stuffings with meat or shellfish (oyster) ingredients are risky.  Always cook these on the stove top or in the oven, and not in the turkey.  After carving, remove all stuffing from the bird before refrigerating it.
6.    A significant risk of food poisoning comes from under cooking the turkey. You can’t tell it’s done by how it looks!  While recipes give you hints about testing for “done ness,” such as a golden brown color or seeing juices run clear, these may not be accurate.  The only way to make sure your bird is cooked sufficiently to be safe to eat is to measure the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. It must reach 165 degrees F.
7.    It may not be in mom’s recipe, but bring gravy to a full boil before serving.
8.    Keep cold food like salads, Jello molds and salad dressing refrigerated until just before serving.  Once dinner is over, refrigerate leftovers.  If food has been sitting out for two hours or more, it may not be safe to eat.
9.    Use pasteurized eggs in homemade recipes.
10.    After eating, take the remaining meat off the bird and store in a shallow container in the refrigerator. Don’t put an entire carcass into the refrigerator — it won’t cool down quickly enough.

For more free safety tips to cell phones, text the word TIPS or PUNTOS for Spanish to 69866.

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